Miss a bus in a major city and you could be a few minutes late for an appointment. Miss a bus in Kamloops, where transit runs less frequently, and you might miss that appointed time altogether.
Google Transit, an online trip-planning tool announced Monday at TRU, should help more riders catch their buses and encourage greater transit use overall, officials said.
"It's been one of the important tools we as a city have asked for," said Erin Felker, the City's transportation planner, pointing the potential of the tool for special trips outside of commuter routines.
Environment Minister Terry Lake demonstrated the trip planner.
"Today's announcement is a really good example of the innovative ways B.C. Transit and communities work together," Lake said.
Anyone with a smartphone or computer access can go online to www.bctransit.com/regions/kam and click on the trip planner link. The free service combines the database of Google Maps with the latest B.C. Transit schedule information. Entering a place of departure and destination brings up a list of route options.
"You can plan your trip days in advance if you want to," Lake said. "If you have mobility issues, you can look for less walking."
Mayor Peter Milobar said the tool has been a long time coming. He credited TRU Student Union for supporting the U-pass initiative and boosting ridership when other communities were struggling with rising transit costs. Ridership in Kamloops was up by four per cent last year.
"Having this tool in your hand or on a computer, it becomes easier to get to work on time," said Dustin McIntyre, TRUSU president. "It is the next step in the growth of the Kamloops transit system."
B.C. Transit president Manuel Achadinha said the simple and convenient tool is already in used in 400 areas across North America. Kamloops is the fourth city in B.C. to acquire it.
"This is going to help existing customers, but it's going to make it easier for new customers," he said.
Coun. Donovan Cavers, a public transit advocate, said the tool removes barriers to access.
"This is one of the best service changes in the B.C. Transit system in 10 years, bar none," Cavers said. "Most people have a really hard time deciphering the schedule."
At the Lansdowne transit interchange, a few regular riders could see its potential. Shane Carlson said he's checked online for such information in the past through other channels and thinks the new service could be useful.
"An app would be a helluva lot quicker just to find when the bus is coming, anywhere," Carlson said. "It would be great when you're getting off work late at night."
Shane Reid said he's sure to use the new tool, which has been available for some time in larger centres such as Toronto. In Kamloops, where public transit doesn't operate around the clock, it will be even more valuable, he said.